It seems tenant farming’s primordial residue has stained modern day renting with a peculiar interpersonal and professional environment, considering landlords stand mightily above ye obsequious tenants. Even more interesting, few seem to recognize the relationship is, well, backwards. Wonder what I’m talkin’ ’bout? Typically, tenants commission other individuals or companies to provide a rental service (housing), yet tenants yield to the demands of the person or company that is paid to serve. In other words, the “servant” out ranks the employer. Usually, contracted service providers submit to the will of the man with the moolah, yet rental relationships have inverted from the professional, capitalist norm, allowing king landlord to act as s/he pleases, regardless of how those actions affect the tenant. Enough hyperbole; what’s the rest of the story, and how can power be balanced?

I write this entry for the benefit of the landlord and property manager more so than for the tenant, as I hope to draw attention to how one’s behavior may be unknowingly and negatively affected by this unique situation. Also, I’d like to point out why tenants may, at times, feel victimized or cornered. Don’t scare your business away! With proper attention to this matter, I guarantee that any business involving rentals will improve, lowering stress and increasing profitability. A job well done is a job well kept, but the expected tension radiating from the landlord stigma has enhanced the common preference to “own” rather than lease, without much attention to which is most economically strategic.

Home financing is often arranged in a way that corrupts the definition of ownership. In some situations, “ownership” can be a more costly, riskier form of renting, only without direct oversight. Though it is not always the case, some attempts at ownership jeopardize economic well being with risks that, if realized, affect all aspects of life, including the education of children. The perceived taint of tenancy, alone, is not enough to drive this American trend, but it surely makes perpetual leasing less inviting, especially when landlords are blind to their abrasive attitudes. I’ll explain through example.

A recent experience compelled me to write this piece all together. RentPost’s private beta was limiting the use of its software to local clients, and earlier this spring a group of tenants contacted me in hopes that I would offer the software to their landlord, citing their difficulty of delivering the rent. They wanted something easier. So, I contacted the property manager, explained the reason for my calling, and offered him the new online software at no cost for taking part in the local Beta. Rhetorically he ask, “what? they can’t drive one mile to drop off their rent?His tone suggested that he saw himself as the boss of his tenants, refusing to simplify things for them even at no cost. I retracted my offer, and to answer his question, I would note that the tenants are not always in the area when rent is to be delivered, and it is likely within the scope of his employment to ensure rent is collected on the managed properties; actually, it is likely the entire scope of his employment. He did not consider the tenant beyond a thing in a house, not as a human who has a family to visit, or a person who may enjoy vacations from time to time. The only context the manager was envisioning his tenant in was that of a tenant. It is not unreasonable to assume there is limited difficulty associated with driving one mile, but it makes the poor assumption that the tenant only exists as an occupant of a house one mile away, not a student who may study abroad or a future politician who might pursue a summer internship out of state. Actually, the tenants were students who did not intend to stay in the house for the summer. Regardless of the situation, they are people, all with lives his nearsightedness apparently removed from consideration. Had it been a thought, he may have been able to strategize his tenant accommodations more appropriately, and those tenants may have renewed their lease (not the case). I would argue that similar landlord behavior has driven the American public toward ownership – at ALL and any cost. We all know what financially misconstrued home ownership has done to our country thus far, can it really all be pointed back to poor landlord/manager behavior? No – I kid – but let’s get back on track. What might change to draw landlord/management attention to tenant livelihood?

Nobody knows about poor managers! There is seldom a means of management review for the public to view. The lack of such critique provides an impenetrable shield from bad reputation, and new, future business is not affected by poor interpersonal behavior with current occupants. Might there be a way to mark your landlord permanently with thumbs up or down? There must be a tenant community in that landlords are reviewed, and tenant analysis is viewable to other tenants and property owners. Possibly an online software… maybe one that includes, landlord and tenant feedback… Oh, dear – I’ve said too much.

Landlords do not fear the vacancy of a single unit! The resulting damage from only one vacated unit is never enough to influence landlord/management behavior, but when all units in question are simultaneously at risk of vacancy or rent withholding, the status quo will quickly shift. So, tenant unions that promote unison in tenant activity may encourage landlords to eagerly attend to tenant desire. However, the fleeting nature of many rental communities poses difficulties when attempting to consistently accomplish full participation. Members would be continually changing, so organization is a challenge. The sources of information Americans are most frequently exposed to: television and Internet provide only one portal to a solution, as Internet is the only one without a cost associated with passing a message along. How about e-mail list serves? Well, this would also require continual updates, and frequent changes would corrupt this idea. There must be a source that draws the attention of all tenants, new or old, by which community interaction is apparent and simple. The same software tenants use for work order submission, rent payment, and landlord contact may also contain an area exclusive to to tenant communication. If all tenants access the online software inherently and little additional effort is needed to participate, than, in theory, unity is easily accomplished. Additionally, tension amongst neighbors may decline as everyone may be in tune with the surroundings, promoting a healthy living environment.

So, why would landlords provide such software and willingly step down from their posts atop the rental hierarchy? Because their command only lasts for the duration of the lease agreement, and after the contract reaches maturity, tenants may finally retaliate by vacating, forcing management to restore and advertise the unit all the while not collecting rent. Oh, so costly…The situation described is more conducive to repeat tenants, lowering the associated cost of vacancy. Furthermore, if tenants handle their issues amongst themselves, managers will no longer be leaned upon to mediate tenant-tenant interaction. So let my final point be clear; I believe that landlords stand to gain the most by balancing the pecking order in their rental communities. And as an aside, I believe providing them an epicenter to aggregate and handle rental activities would derive the most fruit when conceding this social power. In actuality, the property owner would likely recognize the greatest financial benefits, as her pocket will recognize the bliss of higher profit margins. Man, I love big profit margins… Don’t You? Alright, get out of here – I can’t believe you read this much..

The Rent Lobster


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  1. […] II: Common Landlord Complaints Resolved. Oh, and it is always important to know who the bosses are: Landlords, Remember Who You Work For. Finally,  tenants keep your best interests in mind regarding the decision of Renter’s […]

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